Miki and Mandakini, Alone
I wasn’t in love with Raghav. But I was lonely. I knew I had lost Raghav forever.
It would never be the same again. It couldn’t.
We had had lovers, and none of them had lasted. We had got swept away, each of us, in the first throes of romance, and forgotten each other for a while. But each of us had always returned to the other. I had endured the distance because I knew it wouldn’t last and he would come back to me, and all would be right with the world again.
But he wouldn’t come back this time. It wasn’t just that he was in love with Sonali and was going to marry her. It was more that now, someone meant more to him than I did. I didn’t know how or why it had happened so – I didn’t know if I could ever understand that. But I did know he didn’t need me anymore, that she was closer to him than I was.
I knew because he didn’t ask me for advice any more. Because while he still spoke to me often, he didn’t need to tell me every little thing. And she was his favourite subject of conversation.
Now on the phone, he was friendly, chatty, even polite. He behaved like most friends do, I suppose. He didn’t talk to me any more like Raghav used to talk to me. It was like we were two strangers playing a part.
And that felt strange. A world where I was not the most important person for Raghav – I hadn’t seen that world since we first became friends. It was unfamiliar, inhospitable.
I used to feel sorry for myself for being lonely. I had never known what it was like to be really alone. This was it. Being alone. Raghav gone.
I wondered if he knew how I was feeling.
“How can Raghav not know how I feel?” cried Miki. “How can he not sense it? But if he does, is he deliberately ignoring it?”
“No, that’s not fair,” said Mandakini. “I don’t think he guesses. I suppose he thinks I’m happy for him – I tried hard enough to convince him of that.”
“Does he not realise that things have changed between us?”
“Maybe he’s so wrapped up in his happiness that he doesn’t – or if he does, he doesn’t care.“
“How can Raghav not care about how I feel?”
“He is absorbed in his life. He’s happy, Miki,” said Mandakini, the wise one for once. “He’s happier than he ever was. This is right for him.’
“How can a world in which Raghav and Miki are not best friends be right?”
And I cried.
For an insane moment, I wondered if I should call him and tell him I loved him. That I wanted him to marry me.
“But you don’t want to marry him,” Mandakini pointed out. “You never did.”
“But I want him. He’s my best friend. And I’m losing him, just like I’ve lost everyone else.”
For once, Mandakini had no answer. How could she reprove Miki for being dramatic?
“If I marry Raghav,” went on Miki, “we’ll always be together. I’ll never lose him. We’ll have fun together. We always do. What’s the point of marriage anyway? People get married and fall out of love and spend the rest of their lives being miserable. Why should I not marry a friend instead, and spend life having fun?”
“Would a life with Raghav be fun?”
I remembered all the reasons why I had refused Raghav. He was the greatest friend, but I knew we would get on each other’s nerves if we spent too much time together.
“Besides,” said Mandakini, “he loves Sonali.”
He loved Sonali. And that was the end of it.
But I felt better for reminding myself that I didn’t want him if I could have him.
“Stop being a baby,” said Mandakini. “So Raghav is getting married. If he drifts away, he does. You go and find new friends.”
I wiped my face with the sleeve of my sweater. Maybe I needed new friends. Maybe my closeness to Raghav was distorting my perspective.
I wondered again at his becoming distant to me.
“I understand he’s getting married,” said Miki, “but doesn’t he even want to be my friend? That’s weird. Does he not need to talk to me anymore?”
“Actually, that’s stupid,” said Mandakini. “I wouldn’t make a good wife for Raghav, but I know he can’t have a better friend.”
“Well, it’s his loss,” Miki concluded. “I’ve still got myself.”
“Besides,” said Mandakini, “there’s Divya’s wedding to think about. I’ve never attended a friend’s wedding before. That should be fun – might even meet someone interesting.”
I laughed out loud at the idea of falling in love with a guy I had met at a wedding – it brought to mind the most stereotypical Bollywood romances.
“Just because something is a stereotype doesn’t mean it can never be true,” said Mandakini wisely.